Tag Archives: Food Writing

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship

Cover imageRegular readers will know that I’m not one for words like ‘charming’ and ‘delightful’ – smacks too much of tweeness for me – but when I read the pitch for Isabel Vincent’s Dinner with Edward, they immediately popped into my head. Another one was ‘Christmas’, but that’s the old bookseller in me. Vincent’s book tells the story of her friendship with the nonagenarian Edward who cooks delectable dinners for her in his New York apartment.

Vincent has recently moved to the city, taking up a position on the New York Post after years as a foreign correspondent, bringing her husband and daughter with her. Living in Toronto, far from her father, Edward’s daughter has asked Vincent to look in on him, telling her of the promise his beloved wife Paula extracted from him to continue living after her death. Intrigued and tempted by Valerie’s descriptions of her father’s culinary prowess, Vincent calls in to be met by a dapper Edward who welcomes her into an apartment filled with delicious cooking aromas. So begins what is at first a weekly dinner date, replete with an immaculately prepared cocktail followed by several courses. Edward is both a wonderful host and an accomplished cook – inventive dishes prepared from carefully selected ingredients, wine perfectly matched, jazz playing quietly in the background. These two console each other – one who has lost the love of his life, the other whose marriage is crumbling – with food, appreciation and conversation, continuing to do so over several years until their meetings grow less frequent as Vincent finds herself in love and Edward’s health inevitably begins to fail.

You’ll have realised from the first paragraph that I found this book a delight. Hard not to use the word ‘heartwarming’, another word I tend to avoid, when describing the way in which Edward and Vincent rescue each other. Her account is arranged around the meals they share, beginning each chapter pleasingly with a menu. I’m sure Edward approved – the short interview at the back of the book tells us that he lived to see the hardback edition published in the States. Vincent unfolds his, and Paula’s, stories alongside her own as Edward introduces her to his repertoire of delectable lovingly perpared delicacies.

The secret is treating family like guests and guests like family

He’s very much the urbane New Yorker, seeing Vincent as something of a project. She begins to look at life a little differently, always leaving his apartment happy no matter how difficult things have become at home or how challenging at work. A lovely book, then. Almost as soon as I started it, I was struck by what a great movie it would make. I’d go and see it for sure.

Pushkin Press: London 2019 9781911590262 223 pages Hardback

The Edible Atlas by Mina Holland: A tasty little post which involves Jaffa cakes

Cover imageThis may seem an unusual post from me but I enjoy eating almost as much as I enjoy reading and would do a lot more of it were I not in fear of an exploding waistline. Travel comes a close third which makes Mina Holland’s culinary atlas an attractive prospect, all the more so thanks to the puff from Yotam Ottolenghi adorning the dust jacket. It’s a clever idea – five geographical areas (Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas) are broken down into countries, some further divided into regions, with an essay about the local cuisine, maps charting indigenous ingredients and a set of recipes.

Holland kicks off with a chatty introduction discussing influences on regional cooking, from invasion and immigration to climate and geographical conditions, encouraging her readers to take a relaxed attitude to recipes and use their creativity. There are regional larder lists and an appealing inventory of kitchen equipment which steers well clear of arcane, expensive accoutrements plus a handy list of stockists for more exotic ingredients. I’m not going to catalogue all thirty-nine cuisines – that would make for a very dull post – but just to give you an idea, you’ll be visiting France, Italy, Germany (yes, I know), Scandinavia, Turkey, Iran, India, Thailand, Ethiopia, Louisiana and Brazil. Holland (bit confusing, that) has something interesting to say about all of the areas I picked out to read, often drawing on her own travels and extensive reading. Her recipes looked clear and easy to follow if a little disappointingly predictable at times – Gazpacho for Andalucia and Guacamole for Mexico – with interesting, unfamiliar dishes from the more unusual destinations such as Iranian Chicken with Barberries, Yoghurt and Orange Peel and Brazilian Shrimp Stew. I’ve a feeling I’ll be dipping into the essays rather than using it as a cookery book, though.

I bet you’re all dying to know about those German dishes so here they are: Savoy Cabbage and Caraway Seeds, Braised Red Cabbage (H’s favourite), Sauerkraut and Beery Bratwurst with Sauerkraut. Danish Dream Cake sounds more up my street. Apologies to any German readers but you know you’d make fun of British recipes featured in a German cook book, and I’m more than happy to look at any traditional German recipes you’d like to send my way, particularly in the cake department. And speaking of cakes – I met a friend in Oxford yesterday where we had lunch at Bills. We both finished of with a Jaffa cake which may sound dull but this was a Jaffa cake like no other I’ve tasted – I urge you to get your hands on one as soon as you possibly can.